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Oz’s Seven Network will cut 150 jobs

Layoffs part of $19.7 mil cost-cutting plan

SYDNEY — Responding to rumors of potential cuts of up to 800 jobs and rumblings of possible retaliatory union action, Kerry Stoke’s Seven, the No. 2 Oz TV network, has begun to announce details of its proposed A$30 million ($19.7 million) cost-saving drive, including confirmation that 150 jobs will be shed via redundancies and natural attrition over the coming year.

With redundancies likely to be finalized within four weeks, the ongoing restructuring of the seriously underperforming network is also set to produce a merger of the management of its metropolitan and regional Queensland operations, as well as the relocation of Seven’s central production facilities from Sydney to the proposed Viacom Docklands development in Melbourne.

Cost-cutting strategy

Network director of operations Judi Stack, brought in recently to orchestrate the introduction of cost-cutting initiatives in the wake of the network’s disappointing end of financial year results, told staff in a memorandum that less than 30% of the projected $19.7 million in savings would be coming from job cuts.

Indeed, substantial programming rationalization has already seen the axing of news programs “Sunrise” and “11 a.m.,” the “Gold Coast News Bulletin”, game show “All Star Squares” and popular true crime series “Australia’s Most Wanted,” which has since been picked up by Kerry Packer’s rival Nine Network.

Management posts cut

Of the 150 jobs earmarked for elimination, the network said 60 would come from on-air, production and administrative staff such as journalists, camera crew and clerical workers, while another 90 would be sliced from management, which is mostly populated by contract employees. Already emerging as the first senior casualty of the fray is Laurie Patton, who is exiting as general manager of Seven Queensland.

After years of uncertainty and what was perceived to be relative inaction regarding the future of the ailing network, the market responded positively to the news of Seven’s long overdue cost-cutting initiatives, with shares rebounding 2.4% to a three-month high of $3.03.